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Navigating Difficult Conversations: A Guide to Sailing Smooth Seas at Work

Ah, the dreaded difficult conversation, the Sasquatch of workplace encounters. No one really wants to encounter it unless you're a true masochist (we won't judge). Yet, it's a bit like eating your vegetables; you know it's good for you, so let's sprinkle some fun seasoning on it! This list mostly refers to conversations addressing less-than-exemplary performance, but can be applied to other types of difficult conversations, too!


1. The Grand Invitation Unveiling: Picture this: You get a mysterious invite, but it's all hush-hush. Surprise parties? Yes. Surprise difficult conversations? Not so much! Brene Brown said it best, "Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind." Give them a heads-up on the agenda, like a movie trailer for the upcoming blockbuster chat about XYZ. After all, surprises are better left for birthday gifts and jack-in-the-boxes, not serious office talks.


2. Let's Do the Face-to-Face Tango: Let's talk sincerity. Texts, emails, and smoke signals can't convey your body language. Opt for the face-to-face experience via video call or in person. Miscommunication is the arch-nemesis of any superhero duo, so make sure you and your conversation buddy are on the same comic book page!


3. The Band-Aid Ripping Spectacle: Procrastination is like leaving a Band-Aid on for too long – it just gets stickier! Get to the point in the first 15 seconds. Rip that Band-Aid off, and let the healing (or at least the talking) commence!


4. The Sympathy Symphony: Empathy is awesome, but let's save it for the happy hours. During tough talks, sympathy is your jam. Don't pull out your "been there, done that" card; it's not a winning hand. Remember, you're not here to win sympathy points; you're here to solve problems and build bridges, not burn them down!


5. The Triple 'What' Whammy: It's all about the magic three: the What, the How, and the Future What. Be as clear as a polished crystal ball – what they did wrong (no cryptic messages here!), how to mend the past, and what epic, majestic, different future you're envisioning.


6. The Confidence Sandwich: I don’t love the compliment sandwich. Don’t leave employees wondering, “Am I great or do I suck?” Instead, start and end your convo with a genuine attestation that you KNOW we can get there, we can be successful, we can get it right!


7. Avoid “YOU” As Much As Possible: Imagine that every time you say the word “you”, your employee is adding another brick to their fortress of defense. Try to either say “we” or use neutral language altogether. “It looks like there was a mistake on last month’s accounting.” Vs. “It looks like you really blew your work you did on last month’s accounting.”

In Summary – The Great Workplace Symphony: When your employees sense your genuine care and commitment to a happy work oasis, it's like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow – rare and magical! Be the virtuoso of your culture, and let the harmony of understanding and growth serenade your workdays.


Remember, sail those choppy seas of difficult convos with a sprinkle of (appropriate) humor and a vat of sincerity, and you'll chart a course to a brighter, happier workplace horizon.



Culture Scapes can help you have these difficult conversations! Do you want assistance shaping the conversation before you have it? Fancy a quick roleplay practice? Want someone to head up the conversation and you to provide additional context? Whatever your worry, Culture Scapes can help you navigate exactly as you wish. Get in contact with us today for a free consultation.


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